You could say Arkar Latt’s (B.Arch. ’89) architectural career began in Shakespearean theater. As a high school student, the Bellport, N.Y., native was charged with building stage sets for a performance of Macbeth. It was a defining moment for the future NYIT alumnus, not full of sound and fury, but of promise and fulfillment.
Arkar Latt (B.Arch. ’89) oversaw the construction of the Burj-Dubai (above), the world’s tallest building.
On the advice of a family friend, Latt pursued a degree in architecture at NYIT and, after graduation, worked for fellow graduate Angelo Corva (B.S. ’72), principal and founder of Angelo Francis Corva & Associates in Hempstead, N.Y. After gaining several years of experience on commercial, single-family, and multi-family properties, Latt joined Turner Construction in New York City.
Almost immediately, he was thrust into his first major international project—renovating Kuwait’s historic Sief Palace, which had been damaged during the first Gulf War. Latt spent 18 months in the Middle East, an experience that taught him some valuable lessons.
“It’s important to be humble when you’re working in another country,” he says. Respect for foreign cultures, he notes, is paramount, especially when you’re involved in projects such as national landmarks.
He returned to New York City and spent the next eight years at Turner fulfilling various roles: project engineer, superintendent, purchasing agent, and senior project manager. During this time, Latt’s work included hospitals, airports, and public arenas, such as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, N.Y., home of the U.S. Open tennis tournament.
In 2002, his company tapped him to serve as the operations manager of Turner International, overseeing emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.
“Overnight, our division went from being one of the smallest to one of the largest,” says Latt. Today, he oversees construction operations in 20 countries across five continents with eight permanent offices overseas.
With a staff of more than 900 professionals, he tackles projects throughout the world. One of the most recent: the $4.1 billion, 160-floor Burj-Dubai, which at 2,684 feet, is now the world’s tallest manmade structure. The project, which opened in January 2010, required Latt (whose company served as construction manager) to hire local staff as well as local and international subcontractors. In the process, he gained an appreciation of regional politics and culture.
“When you show humility, professionalism, and respect before you show technical prowess, people in their native countries will almost always welcome you and help you more,” he says.
Some worthwhile advice for all global professionals.